Releasing the Old; Embracing the New

It’s now December 31st, and for the most part, the hustle and bustle of the Christmas celebration are winding down. Our Savior’s birth celebrated, presents given, presents received and opened, the glitz and wrappings of another year have found their way to their respective places whether that is in a drawer, a closet, returned, or in storage for next year, the recycle bin or for curbside pick up. For many it has been a time of sadness, remembering those no longer with us or losses that we have struggled with this year. Others felt alone and far from their loved ones whether because of their career; or serving their country across the world; or because they did not have resources to travel to their family or loved ones. Some have had the best year ever. Others celebrate a new birth or new life in their homes. Many experienced the angst of wanting to bless their loved ones with just the right gift, and some the pressure of not having the means to do it or do it in the manner they would like.

It is my hope and prayer that even amongst the myriad of feelings we often find ourselves experiencing; the pressures that we experience during this time of year that you have been able to find glimpses of joy. My wish is that glimmers of unconditional love have shown themselves; moments of grace have peeked out around the corner and taken your breath away! Christmas and life, in general, is much more than quick photo ops and sound bites! We often miss out when we get caught up in the rush and the pressures.

Except for leftover expenses, bills, and a few leftovers, the rich and tasty treats that we only allow ourselves this time of year, have been consumed. Now we move onto thinking about a brand new year with all the potential it may hold. Lord God help us to frame 2017 just that way! Give us the courage to look realistically at 2016; the good and the bad; the victories and the regrets. Help us to have the proper perspective about how our year as gone. Show us how to have the grace to celebrate every victory; gracefully repair what needs fixing and let go of what we can not change. May we have the boldness to look back realistically at the year, see it as it was, evaluate the changes we need to make and with great courage step into the adventure the New Year will bring. Help us have the wisdom to take time, to slow down and enjoy some simple small pleasures; such as a walk in nature, watching children play; making that phone call we have talked about but neglected; praying a moment for that person that just keep popping into our mind; maybe even sending a note to them. Teach us to simplify our life so we can enjoy it more; enjoy others more. Perhaps it just really boils down to perspective. Help us to develop proper perspective in our lives. Help us to see the things that are the most important; the things that at the end of the day or the end of our days will matter the most. Our relationship to You; our loved ones and those we come in contact with. May love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness be gifts that we often give, for they are far more valuable that anything we can purchase and the truth is that withholding them tends to hurt us far more than anyone else.

Father God, is it possible that there is a focus You have for this new season? Perhaps a word or a scripture verse that we need to ponder or focus on for the upcoming year? Suppose You are saying to us as in Isaiah 43:19, “Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of (perceive) it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert…”. May we be wise and alert enough to sense what You want to do in and through our lives in these days to come. Whether it is focusing on You at a new and deeper level, establishing deeper relationships, reaching out to those who are hurting, changing career or ministry paths… whatever You have for us, may we be willing to embrace it with open and willing hearts in the upcoming year! May we seek wisdom and understanding in all we do and allow You to establish our footsteps as we enter boldly into everything You have for us in 2017.

Knowledge, Wisdom, & Understanding

“Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! Do not forget nor turn away from the words of my mouth. “Do not forsake her, and she will guard you; Love her, and she will watch over you. “The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; And with all your acquiring, get understanding.” Proverbs 4:5-7 (NASB)

While praying this morning, thinking back over all that happened this last week, I found myself weighing the events. I find that my heart is very grateful; yes, even for those difficult and painful moments! That is when Proverbs 4 came to mind…

We live in a culture in America where education is valued highly, and most parents strongly encourage early learning and higher education. We also live in an era where information is easily accessible; at the touch of our fingertips, we can educate ourselves on almost any topic we desire. It was inconceivable just twenty-five years ago the speed at which our world would change and that we would be able to use the internet to research any topic that we desired; becoming well trained on that subject.

The question is, whether we are speaking of education or in our knowledge of Scripture, are we making the most of the knowledge that we have acquired? Are we in our quest for knowledge also seeking wisdom? Wisdom is needed to apply knowledge, especially if we desire to be most effective in its application. Even so, notice the verse doesn’t stop there. We are also encouraged to get understanding. Here I would ask: Understanding of what?
1. Understand what you have learned
2. Understand the application of what you have learned
3. Applying what you have learned in a wise and appropriate way
4. Ability to explain or teach it to others in a way that makes sense to
them

Consider this, sometimes when conversations flow something will be said that will stir up a disagreement or perhaps something has been said that is misunderstood, and offense is triggered. Sometimes offense is triggered because harsh attitudes or bluntness. Other times it is unknowingly triggered. Perhaps we did not convey our thoughts or hearts wisely. Then again, we could have been using wisdom in our conversation but failed to include understanding; explaining ourselves well. They may be distracted or struggling because of a personal issue or pain in their lives. Lastly, if we spoke with wisdom when conveying our thoughts, and we sought to bring understanding to the person to whom we were speaking; did we speak to them with an understanding of who they are?; their personality type?; and the things with which they may be dealing? Did we consider them? Did we just throw something at them or did we engage with them first?

Wisdom is invaluable in life. Whether you are working with your child, your teen, your spouse, coworker or boss; wisdom is a key asset that we are wise to pray to receive. James 1:5 “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Prayer for understanding, often neglected, is also essential. Wisdom is defined as the application of experience, knowledge, and sound judgment. That is pretty powerful in itself! Now imagine adding understanding as an element. Understanding as a noun implies comprehension, insight and if you will, the archaic meaning good judgment. What we sometimes miss in the fray is that understanding is also an adjective meaning sympathetically aware of other’s feelings; to be tolerant, forgiving.

What a gift it would be if we chose to apply our experience and knowledge with sound judgment and full comprehension; all the while being sympathetically aware of the feelings of those we are interacting with from a heart of tolerance and forgiveness. Sure, it isn’t easy to set aside strong opinions and attitudes. It takes strength to push of feelings to the side for a while but what would happen if we asked gentle questions of others rather than having harsh confrontations, prompting them to truly think about the issues at hand? I believe in most situations; it would initiate constructive conversations and provide a safe place for people to work out issues that may have previously seemed beyond resolution. It would certainly go a long way in bridging gaps in communication and avoid some of the frustrations of communication between differing personality types.

Lord, please teach us in all our getting, whether it is friends, knowledge, things, land or wealth; teach us foremost to seek wisdom and understanding (both the noun and the adjective)! Please show us the value of the adjective understanding (being sympathetically aware of other’s feelings; tolerant and forgiving.) If that means we have to take the temperature in our environment and observe (think before we speak), please help us develop this in our lives. May we walk in love, hope, mercy, grace; be seasoned with grace and take the beauty of Your grace with us wherever we go! In the name of Yeshua, Name above all names. Amen

Who Are We Building For?

Have you ever noticed there are some very hard sayings in scripture?  They are generally words that we can be tempted to either skip over or  forget about; sometimes intentionally because they challenge or scare us.  Let’s consider Matthew 7: 21-23:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

What does this mean? Clearly, the people in this situation thought they were doing the work of a Christ-follower and expected to be included in those who would enter the Kingdom. Yet Jesus says to them, “I never knew you.” I don’t know about you, but this statement certainly gives me pause!  It brings up many questions in my mind and makes me want to take an up close look at who I am.  What does a true believer look like?  We can go back and take a look at Matthew 5, 6 and 7 for some answers.  Is it enough to just believe in Jesus Christ? After all, James 2:19 says that  even the demons believe that there is one true God and because of that they tremble or shudder.  They certainly won’t be entering the Kingdom of God.   Maybe it just isn’t as simple as some today make it seem.  How many times have I heard it said  “believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” Are we propagating cheap grace? Fire insurance? and numbers? or are we truly interested in making disciples as Christ instructed? It is certainly worth consideration!

Romans 10:8-9 tells us: “8 But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART “– that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.…”  How if we have done this, do we go from salvation to depart from me, I never knew you?  Have we come to a place or are we coming to a place in the western world where we teach about salvation and then drop the ball when it comes to scantification?  Do professing Christians look decidedly different in their lifestyle than non-believers?

I want to be careful here to explain. I am not talking about looking different by telling everyone they are going to hell because… 9you can fill in the blank0. Nor am I talking about people who go around telling everyone one what they are doing wrong and why in a judgemental and condescending way. That is not how Jesus worked! Jesus met people where they were along His way and He loved them. Did He tell the woman at the well and others about their life, yes. But He did so in a way that compelled her to go back to her people and tell them about this man who told her all about her life and invited them to know Him. That tells me He was gentle and loving because  judgemental and condescending generally does not produce positive results but anger and resentment.

Another possibility is that we in the western world do not understand the concept of Lord.  Most have never been under an immediate autority other than our parent(s).  We may have been under authority at work where we are ‘paid’ to do as we are told. AS a whole, we are very independent and most often whether right or wrong self-governed people.  Submission to someone else is quite foreign to many of us.  Christianity is all about submission to Christ. Paul said follow me as I follow Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1). Christ is our ultimate example of how we are to live our lives.  His life was lived according to what Father God asked of Him.  The mark of a true believer/follower is to be conformed to the image of Christ. Everyday our life should look a little more like His if we are truly His followers.

Perhaps one explanation of the above scripture is that those Jesus would say this to were attracted to the power and miracles but not to the person of Christ. Maybe they imitated His outward actions but did not imitate His personality or inner behavior. Perhaps they lacked the heart connection that comes from a personal relationship with the Lord and were using Him for what He could do for Him rather than having the heart of one who follows and serves.   Could it be that the pull of the world and love of worldy pleasures were just to great for them to lay down or overcome?  How are we doing personally?  Is the pull of the world greater than our desire to become more like Jesus?  Who do we look like?  The world? Or are we being conformed from glory to glory into the image of Jesus Christ?   Preaching to myself here…

Heavenly Father,  thank you for Your grace and mercy to Your people! Lord, thank you that wisdom is available to each of us if we ask You for it. I pray that you will give us a heart for You and to be Christ’s representative’s on this earth; loving others as He loved us and walking out the Fruit of the Spirit with each step we take. I ask that Your Bride will arise and walk differently in this world, that we will be known for our love each other and for others and that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness and self-control will dominate our lives and touch the lives of all who are around us.  May there be unity among the body and may revival breakout beginning with the body of Christ. In the mighty and powerful name of Jesus Christ!

May grace and peace be multiplied through all who believe!

Why Struggles?

     Over the past few days, I have been looking back at life. You see, my husband and I have been asked to be a part of a relationship conference this next weekend. It will consist of a brief testimony from five couples about marriage and then will be followed by a “rapid fire” question and answer period. The groups will be divided into unmarried, married under ten years, married over ten years. Then all the groups will reunite for an overview and more q&a.  We are blessed to have four couples with over 35 years experience participating!

     I have to say the secret to our longevity in marriage is most likely tenacity. That put plainly; stubbornness.  We are both stubborn people and come from stubborn people. We also started our marriage out with the mindset that this is forever. By beginning from the faith perspective and from a Biblical world view, that means our perspective was to make it work; fix what was broken.  Have we ever felt like quitting? Yes. Thankfully, when one was discouraged the other usually picked up the slack and we muddled our way through by prayer, God’s help and sometimes sheer determination. Has it always been easy? Not at all!  We really were just babies starting out; though we’d never admit it then.  I remember one couple in their sixties who were friends with our parents declaring, “they will never make it! It’s puppy love and they are too young to get married.” I wonder what they’d say today…

     I spent some time this weekend looking back at the things we have been through together.  I was amazed to see how quickly the challenges began in our marriage and how those struggles were clustered together; back to back, and sometimes year after year. Many were heavy duty challenges, not just the typical adjusting to life together or financial issues.  Those can be difficult enough. We experienced a number of deaths of loved ones close in succession; some following long term illness and some sudden.  It was  a little shocking to look back.  It was also pretty gratifiing at the same time seeing all that we have come through and how it changed each of us; how we grew through those times.

     The thing is, often it is those very struggles in life that cause us to grow, mature and strengthen.  They push us to do something other than just get by.  They force us to look for answers, to seek wisdom.  Hopefully they lead us to seek out God; His wisdom and understanding; and godly answers.  Even when that is not the case, we are able to learn what not to do the next time and what does not work.  As we grow and mature through these times, it puts us in the perfect place to help others who go through similar situations.

     “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 ESV  

     I could’t help but feel a little overwhelmed and amazed as I glanced the highlights of the years.  Just the major events, both the good ones and the hard ones.  Would we have ever signed up for this if we’d known what was coming?  I really don’t know. I would hope so!  I have to say as good as the good has been and as hard as the hard has been; I wouldn’t change a thing! There are times we each wish we had done better or differently but the truth is it has all worked together for good to get both of us were we are today.  We are better for those struggles because they have changed us. They have stretched and matured us.  Fears are fewer; faith is stronger. Best of all, our Heavenly Father is so very real and present in our lives.  He is the true reason that we are here today!  If our stories can help others coming along behind us, all the better.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16

     By His mercy and grace, we have and continue to hold fast in both our faith and in our marriage.  Love deepens with both the good times and the struggles we face when our hearts are set on Him! He is the unifier and the glue that holds this relationship together on the sunny days and on the stormy seas.

 “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:1b-3a ESV

May God’s mercy, grace and peace surround you this day!

 

Find Rest in the Promises

 

What a powerful scripture!  We have received the same promises as the Hebrew children wandering in the wilderness! This challenged me to ask this question…  Just how many promises does the Bible contain? Enter Internet search engines. They are great for my inquiring mind; just remember we can’t believe all we read there.

How many promises are there in the Bible?  The answers I found varied widely.  The first site I found concluded there were 3,573 (bible info.com). Others ranged from 3,000 all the way up to over 30,000! No two sites agreed on the number but that doesn’t really matter for our purpose today.  The point is the Bible is full of all kinds of promises for our life and according the the verse above they are not just for the people of old; they are for us.  I don’t know about you, but that gives me great hope and excitement.

You don’t have to live long on this planet before you realize that life can be very challenging at times!  Our desire is to live fairly uncomplicated lives and we want that for our children as well.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t always turn out that way for us.  If you have circled the sun a few times on this planet, you know this!  When life decides to hurl curve balls and fast balls our way, what do we do?  How do we keep the gale force winds in life from blowing us right into hopelessness, depression and despair?  Sometimes we seek out council from a trusted parent, sibling, mentor, friend or other relative.  It’s great to have those people in our lives!  What if the situation is too overwhelming; too complicated; to big; to tender; or perhaps just too embarrassing to share?  What happens when that burden is excruciatingly heavy and there seems to be no relief from it’s weight in sight?

Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (HCSB)

Or as the Message words it:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Live freely and lightly! That’s what I want every day! So how do we accomplish this is our lives?  What are some practical steps?  How do we rise above what the world throws our way?  How do we overcome discouragement, fear and doubt?  I guarentee many will think my answer is over-simplistic and that’s ok. I’ve been there too!  For many it will seem not only over-simplistic but far fetched.  It’s fine, your doubts will not cause any resentment from me.  The answer to every question, need or dilemma we have is in the Word of God.  I have put it to the test and every single time I have come away with help; comfort; peace.  Our post modern culture will tell us God’s Word isn’t revelant or that it’s archaic.  They may say it’s too restrictive; all about rules, etc.  Even if there is just a bit of truth in what is culturally said about the Bible in our day, how can you dismiss it if you have never truly tested it for yourself?

Whether the actual number of promises found within it’s covers is 3,000 or 33,000; one thing is sure.  One of them will fit what you’re facing at least on some level and is worth deciding to stand on that promise in faith.  When doubt comes, pray and speak the promise over and over. I doesn’t hurt to keep a check on your motives in the process; are my motives pure and is my heart in the right place?

As a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, the best gift we can give ourselves is knowing who God says we are in Christ and being grounded in His Word and His promises. Why? Because the Holy Spirit will remind us or bring it to our mind in time of need or crisis. This is a process and takes time. In the mean time, when attacks or problems come what do we do?  Personally, if I don’t know a promise for my situation, I grab my phone; open the browser and search… Scripture for ______? You can fill in the topic with the need. Example: scripture for doubt, fear, discouragement, rejection, etc. Who does the Bible say I am in Christ? What does the Bible say about healing?

A word of warning,  if you are using the Internet, not everything you find will be accurate and true so test what you find. Also, check it against God’s Word; that it is in context with the scriptures around it; test it against other scriptures; and pray for wisdom, understanding and revelation reguarding the scripture.   This may seem a little complicated, but it is worth it because it works. It is possible to rest in Christ even in the middle of a storm!

A few promises to start with:

2 Timothy 1:7  “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” NASB

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” NIV

James 1: 5-8  “If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.” MSG

Deuteronomy 31:6  “Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Hebrews 13:5-6  “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said,  “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

Isaiah 43: 1-2 ““Now this is what the Lord says — the One who created you, Jacob, and the One who formed you, Israel — “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you.”
‭‭ ‭HCSB‬‬

Abundant Wisdom-Only One True Source

Greetings!

I just Googled wisdom and who knew there are “about 230,000,000 results for wisdom in 0.32 seconds”! From dictionary definitions to blogs to Psychology Today, the web is full of  information on wisdom. Everyone has an opinion. One article gives us the thirty-two key dimensions of critical thinking. You can find information on wisdom from many differing religious views, from scientific views, from the educational community and almost any view point you could possible hold. Can you imagine researching wisdom by this method? Suppose you are truly looking for wisdom in a particular situation. You could spend several lifetimes searching and never get through all of the information if you are depending of the web because more and more information is added daily. It was exhausting just reading a few of the things available.

I ask myself:

  • Is this  wise use of my time?
  • Did I learn anything beneficial?
  • Was it worth the time I spent; effort in proportion to outcome?
  • What percentage of my time was wasted?

James 1:5-6 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.”

Most of us have times we are stumped and in desperate need of wisdom and often need it “yesterday”. The last resort many times even for believers is to ask God; to earnestly seek Him in prayer for the very thing we are standing in need of. Whether we think it is too small to bother God with,  that He is too far away, or that He has much bigger things to deal with; often we just do not seek His help. Sometimes we are just too self-sufficient, too stubborn or just lack the faith to take God at His Word. Yet James if very clear in it’s promise; God’s promise! Ask Him and do not doubt, when you lack wisdom. He gives generously (simply, openly, frankly, sincerely-Strong’s G574-BlueLetterBible); and without reproach or shame.

Solomon made the choice to ask for wisdom because of his young age, for understanding and the ability to discern between right and wrong in order to judge rightly when it came to God’s people.  (1 Kings 3)  Just as James promises us wisdom when we ask; God was pleased to grant Solomon’s request. in fact, God was so pleased that in addition He gave Solomon riches, glory and a long life and promised there would never be another among the kings like Solomon all of his days.(verses 10-16)  Then Solomon’s wisdom was tested…beginning in verse 16 conflict arose. Two women living in the same house, three days after one had given birth the other also gave birth. There were no others in the house to witness what happened next. One of the women’s son died during the night because she laid on it and she switched her baby for the other, leaving that lady to think it was her child that died. After closely looking at the baby, she realized that it was not her child but the baby of the first woman. The dispute was taken before the king for resolution. what came next though quite harsh sounding was actually quite genius and a great example of God giving Solomon discernment and wisdom. The king declared, “divide the child into and give each woman half!” all the while knowing that the true mother of the child would never agree to that arrangement but would rather give her child up altogether than to allow that child to be killed and divided between them. The mother who had lost her child had nothing more to loose and agreed with the King, the child should be divided. By this declaration, it became clear who the mother of the living child was and he was returned to her. Justice was served.

Depending on the translation there are at least two hundred and twelve different scriptures on wisdom throughout the Bible. That number increases if you include similar words like wise, understanding, learning, justice, insight,knowledge, reason, etc. Even so, it is no where near as overwhelming as 230,000,000 entries and you can bet the wisdom you find within the covers of the Bible will be much more helpful than what you find any other place.

That being said, here are a few more words of wisdom that I have uncovered today, I hope that they will bless you!

  • Job 28:22-24   “Abaddon and Death say, ‘With our ears we have heard a report of it.’ “God understands its way, And He knows its place. “For He looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens.”
  • Job 28:26-28   when He established a limit for the rain and a path for the lightning, He considered wisdom and evaluated it; He established it and examined it.”
  • Job 28:28  “He said to mankind, “The fear of the Lord is this: wisdom. And to turn from evil is understanding.”

  • Psalm 37: 29-31   “The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it permanently. The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom; his tongue speaks what is just. The instruction of his God is in his heart; his steps do not falter.”

  •  Psalm 90: 11-12    ” Who understands the power of Your anger? Your wrath matches the fear that is due You. Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts. Lord—how long? Turn and have compassion on Your servants.”

  •  Psalm 104:23-25  “Man goes out to his work and to his labor until evening. How countless are Your works, Lord!  In wisdom You have made them all;

    the earth is full of Your creatures. Here is the sea, vast and wide,
    teeming with creatures beyond number— living things both large and small.”

    Proverbs 2:1-9  “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, listening closely to wisdom and directing your heart to understanding; furthermore, if you call out to insight and lift your voice to understanding,
     if you seek it like silver and search for it like hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up success for the upright; He is a shield for those who live with integrity so that He may guard the paths of justice and protect the way of His loyal followers. Then you will understand righteousness, justice, and integrity—every good path. For wisdom will enter your mind, and knowledge will delight your heart.”

     May 2016 be a year of seeking true wisdom from above and may God’s goodness, mercy and grace be apparent all along the journey!

 

Courage to Realize our True Identity

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Knowing who we are, our identity In Christ, truly frees us! Seeing the value He places on our lives frees us to love, forgive, let others off the hook when they mess up. It gives us power to stay strong in the face of betrayal or hurt!

How? The God and Creator of all living things loved us and wanted relationship with us enough to come in human form as a baby. He grew up experiencing all we ever would and because He knew His worth and purpose, He withstood all kinds of accusation, abuse and betrayal without defending Himself or Fighting back.

Consider some of Jesus’ sufferings…

  • His family called Him out of His mind.
  • One of those closest to Him also betrayed Him.
  • Religious leaders marveled at His wisdom yet tried to trick Him.
  • Those same leaders plotted against Him and planned His demise.
  • The disciples often doubted Him either in word or deed.
  • He was beaten beyond recognition, to the point of not looking human.
  • Forced to carry the cross; yet another weapon of torture and death.
  • Finally, placed upon that cross to slowly suffocate to death, having to lift Himself up just to catch a breath, causing great pain as He did so!

Some considered it weakness when Jesus did not fight back, defend Himself or call upon His Father’s help; but consider the strength it took. Jesus was secure in His true identity, His purpose and the power He had; yet despite the world’s treatment, in His last few words He could show Grace and say, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  Oh, what mercy and grace!!

This is God’s tremendous love for you and me. This is where we find our true identity and He labeled us priceless when God’s Son, His one and only Son, came and limited Himself in human flesh born in a humble setting. Then some thirty odd years later the King of Kings submitted Himself to abuse, false accusation, betrayal, brutality and ultimately death as a sacrifice for every sin ever committed; all for us to be able to have a relationship with the living God. At Christmas we celebrate His coming and because His story doesn’t end here we have great hope and victory over not only sin but also over death! Christmas celebrates Jesus coming; Easter, the fact that death was overcome at His resurrection! For now He is seated by God,  at our Father’s right hand ever interceding on our behalf!

This my friend is true love! This is our identity, our value to God and this is Grace! Jesus took all these sufferings and those cruel spikes for us. That’s the Gospel and that is true love displayed! May we have the grace and courage to love like our Savior loved even when it involves some suffering or pain!

Merry Christmas!

Grace and peace to you as we celebrate the Advent of Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord!!

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Courage to be Unoffendable Part 3

     As I pushed the publish button on WordPress yesterday, I uttered a thank you to Jesus, feeling a bit overwhelmed.  Thinking that this was the end of the instruction on being unoffendable but the practice was really just getting started. This journey had begun a couple of years ago when Pastor Tony taught on the need for us to become unoffendable and has continued over the time that has elapsed.  Before I even took a breath after the prayer of thanksgiving, I felt a nudge or a check in my spirit. I could almost hear the Holy Spirit whisper, “Not Quite yet!” My quick reply was ok, Lord I am listening because I am learning quick obedience always works out best. 
This verse is what I felt or heard in my spirit…
 
 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
      
I meditated on the verse for a time before responding in a whisper; “yes He did, thank you for reminding me. Guess we are back to the classroom.” 
 
       My heart was overwhelmed with thoughts. Jesus Christ, God’s Son had every reason to feel offended throughout His life and especially on the cross! Yet He remained unoffended even to the very last breath and prayed for the forgiveness of the people despite the agony in His body, soul and Spirit as He hung there. He also lived His life this way.
 
      Let’s just look at a few reasons Jesus could have found place for offense.  He was targeted for death before the age of two and His parent forced to flee the country.  His temptation in the wilderness brought mocking words as He was tested.  In Mark 3:21 His family set out to restrain Him and said this about Jesus,”He is out of His mind.”.  In the following verse scribes accused Him of being possessed and that the miracles were done by demons. He healed three leapers from disease, two showed no appreciation. He was betrayed by one of HIs twelve closest friends. Jesus was falsely accused of blasphemy. The community choose to release a violent criminal over His release. He was beaten, whipped with a nine tailed whip, each strand covered with small sharp pieces of broken pottery tearing and shredding His skin until He was unrecognizable! He was made to carry His own cross to the place where He would die the most humiliating death hanging naked upon a cross; struggling for every single breath until death came. These are just a few of the injustices Jesus suffered on our behalf yet He chose to love and forgive rather than being offended. Jesus had His face set like flint on the task set before Him. He kept His heart right before God and kept His mind on the purpose He was sent for which was to… 
 
           “…bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (‭Isaiah‬ ‭61‬:‭1-3‬ NIV)
 
     Choosing to let go of or refuse to take up offense may be a difficult task for us but Jesus set a great example and Stehpen followed in that example when they stoned him. As he neared death and saw Jesus seated at the right hand of His Father; full of the Holy Spirit he proclaimed  “Lord do not hold this sin against them.”  Note it was through the power of the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit that lives inside every true believer in Jesus Christ. He empowered Jesus and Stephen to let go of offense and forgive and He is waiting to give us the strength we need to do the same. The question is am I willing to allow Him to work in this way? Are you? Carrying offense is a weighty thing! It weighs heavy on our hearts; our minds. It robs us of precious time; opportunities; sleep; relationships; hinders our prayer life, social life, worship; hardens our hearts; quenches the work of the Holy Spirit in our life and grieves the heart of our Heavenly Father. These are heavy prices to pay for the ‘right to be offended’.
 
     One question I have to consider now when offense is knocking at my door is “Is there something in me that is making me over sensitive or makes me feel offended?”  God clearly teaches in His Word that we are to examine ourselves and that He is the judge for only He knows the intent and motives of each heart. If there is nothing going on in me at the time making me insecure or over sensitive then perhaps I should choose to overlook the offensive behavior. After all is said and done, I have no idea what is going on in the other persons life that may have resulted in careless words or behavior on their part. Only that person and God know the trials, stresses, pressures, losses, fears, and insecurities they face. I can remind myself to look at the great suffering of Jesus all so He could extend salvation to me with extravagant sides of mercy and grace. And with that in mind, I pray that I will choose to let go of offense or better yet never take it up to begin with! Lord, please keep me teachable, humble, and grateful. Please strengthen me to trust You more, to have me where I need to be and to let go of that which needs letting go. Help me not to gorge on the extravagant mercy and grace You have provided for me; but through the power of the Holy Spirit, help me to let the grace and mercy You show me flow through me to others in my life. As it has been freely given to me, help me to freely give it to others. May all the glory and honor beYours, In the Mighty and Merciful name of Jesus, Amen!

     Could it be that this is the only way to be truly free and experience the freedom available to us In Christ? Please grow us Lord into the image of Jesus, who considered it  joy to humble Himself even unto death for our sakes.
 

May mercy, grace and peace mark our lives in a fresh way!

Courage to be Unoffendable

  “And anyone who is not offended because of Me is blessed.”

                                      Luke 7:23
 
 
         Perhaps you are like me and have experienced some circumstances and situations in life where you have found yourself asking tons of questions, feeling confused and hurt. In such situations, it is very easy to fall into the temptation to take offense. I have been facing just such a choice; maybe my processing my way through this just might be beneficial to someone else.
 
         Most of us have been there at one time of another and if you are following current events, you will see it all over social media and the news. All it takes for offense to flourish in our culture today is a difference of opinion on some topic. There are many other causes of offense as well so for clarification, let’s get a starting definition.  From Miriam Webster Online Dictionary we find offense is defined as:
 
 
 
                “something that causes a person to be hurt, angry, or upset”
 
                               “something that is wrong or improper”
 
                                               “a criminal act”
 
                                           “an act of stumbling”
 
                                     “an act of sin; stumbling block”
 
                     “something that outrages the moral of physical senses”
 
 
        Offense can come by means of something as simple as a few careless words to a great and terrible tragedy. Recently I was reminded of the verse at the top when Jesus said “and anyone who is not offended because of Me is blessed.” In fact, it has come up several times. For this reason, I began to try to look at reasons that we become offended. Here are a few I have come up with:
 
  • unkind words
  • loss
  • unmet needs
  • disappointments-whether circumstances, people or things
  • abuse, acts of violence, crime
  • people who disagree with you on a specific topic
  • opposing view on something you feel strongly about
  • injustice

        Basically, we become offended most often by unmet expectations and when something does not fit within our thinking of what is “normal” or fit within our worldview.  Our worldview is our conception of the world we live in. The question I had to ask next was how can I choose not to be offended in the situation I’m facing. Rather than blame someone or blame God, do I have the courage to look inside myself and ask why the situation gets under my skin? Why does this upset me? After much consideration, behind the hurt and disappointment I found unmet expectations. You see, I had put this person/relationship in a box. The truth is people are like multifaceted jewels and they are ever changing; ever growing. No matter how well we know someone we don’t know everything about them; we don’t know everything they are going through! We only have a perception of who we think they are. 

 
        With all this in mind, I begin to process the potential offense. Father, help me to understand this situation… Is there anything to really be offended about?  Would addressing this be helpful or hurtful to the situation?  I had an expectation, help me see whether or not it was realistic. I experienced a perceived loss or hurt; the ‘offender” may or may not have a clue as to my pain/loss! I have to ask what is in me that causes me to see this as an offense? Is it pride? Insecurity? Why does this create such strong feelings in me? Do I think everyone has to think like me; believe the same things I do?   Realizing of course, crimes and physical abuse would be handled much differently and potentially outside intervention.  
         For the most part, I am realizing that taking offense is often times tied to some form of insecurity and by default connected to pride in some way. Perhaps it is failure to know our true value given to us by our heavenly Creator and  through our relationship with Jesus Christ.  For after all, He tells us we are fearfully and wonderfully made; worth more than many sparrows; created just a little below the angels; and that we are kings and priests in His kingdom.  Yet most of us do not begin to understand how beloved we are.
 
        Scriptures like “be quick to listen, slow to speak and anger, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. (James 1:19-20); Proverbs 14:29  “A patient person shows great understanding, but a quick-tempered one promotes foolishness”; and Proverbs 19:11  A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” can be helpful in our quest to be un-offendable.
Also helpful:
 
 Ephesians 6: 11-13 tells us:
       ” Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.  For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.  This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.”
 
Ephesians 4:30-32 cautions us:
“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
 
Proverbs 15: 1      “A gentle answer turns away anger; but a harsh word stirs up wrath”
 
Proverbs 15:18  A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.”
          Can we truly conquer this thing called offense? Absolutely! I believe by learning our true worth and value (not thinking less or more than we ought about ourselves); accepting that people are different and have the freedom to believe as they want even if it is different than our belief; and realizing when we have unrealistic or unvoiced expectations will take us a long way toward this goal. We will also benefit from the realization of the many times we have benefitted from  being shown mercy and grace by others and by God Himself. Lastly, we will be forgiven as we forgive others. I don’t know about you but I want to be forgiven; I need to be forgiven! Preaching the Word to myself!
Grace and Peace to you, In the Mighty name of Jesus!

Courage to Forgive

“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that just crushed it.”- Mark Twain

Who among us has not suffered some kind of lose, hurt, betrayal or offense in our life? Who among us has not struggled to move on from these situations? How about when instead of you being the target of some mistreatment, it has been a very close loved one or your child or grandchild? Many times those are the hardest to stomach.  Have you ever struggled with forgiving them? I know I have! The absolute greatest example of forgiveness ever was the example Jesus Christ set for us. Let’s take a peek…

Isaiah 53:1-9 Who has believed what we have heard? And who has the arm of the Lord been revealed to? He grew up before Him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground. He didn’t have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn’t value Him.
Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished Him for the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers, He did not open His mouth. He was taken away because of oppression and judgment; and who considered His fate?

For He was cut off from the land of the living; He was struck because of my people’s rebellion. They made His grave with the wicked and with a rich man at His death, although He had done no violence and had not spoken deceitfully.

Jesus suffered greatly, was persecuted unjustly, betrayed by one of the twelve most intimate friends in His ministry and denied by others; whether by their fleeing or by outright denial of association. Further more, He was tortured along the route to the place He would be killed for crimes that were never committed. Still He never ceased to show compassion and forgiveness. Even as Jesus was drawing His last breaths, mercy was on His mind as He uttered the words, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” about those who had been integral in His arrest, trial, sentencing and soon to come death.  The offenses, betrayal and pain He suffered was heinous! Yet, Jesus forgave and asked God to forgive!

Some will say, but Jesus was God’s Son and He was fully God. I submit to you that He was also fully man with the same feelings, thoughts and emotions that we struggle with. His experience here was fully human while also being fully God, something we can not fully understand this side of His Kingdom. Yet He choose to forgive and petition for forgiveness not only for those who were responsible for His treatment but for us as well.

The Bible has many references to forgiveness, as best I have been able to find the most scripture with the word forgive are found in the New International Version. It mentions forgive 74 times, 42 in the Old Testament and 32 in the New.  Forgiveness can be difficult for us but it is the example that Jesus not only set for us but requires from us. He very specifically said that as we forgive so we will be forgiven. Conversely, as we hold onto offense and grudges, so will our offenses and sin be remembered. However, we are also promised He is wiling to forgive us and remember them no more if we repent, after all that was the reason He came.  To restore our relationship with God.  What better motivation to forgive those who we feel have wronged us?

Notice that He asked His Father to forgive them…why? We only have to look to scripture for the answer. Let’s consider Moses. In Exodus 16, it tells us that the Hebrew people grumbled against Moses and Aaron. They’d had it with wondering in the desert and were longing for the foods of Egypt forgetting their captivity and the conditions they had lived under. Moses petitioned God on their behalf. In verse 6 Moses addresses the people with the response; in the morning you will see the Lord’s glory because He has heard your complaints about Him. For who are we that you complain about us? ” Moses continued, “The Lord will give you meat to eat this evening and more than enough bread in the morning, for He has heard the complaints that you are raising against Him. Who are we? Your complaints are not against us but against the Lord.” (‭Exodus‬ ‭16‬:‭7-8‬ HCSB)  

Moses and Aaron were getting the flack, but the real sin was against God and God alone. This is also repeated similarly in Numbers 14. We can also find further evidence in Psalm 51 when David is writing about his sin with Bathsheba after Nathan the Prophet confronted him of his sin. In verse 4 David acknowledges that “against You and You alone have I sinned” as he speaks to God. Notice he did not mention sin against his soldier with whom he should have been with in battle; nor did he mention Bathsheba or her husband. He said it was God and God alone he had sinned against.  Perhaps we can draw a conclusion based of scriptural evidence that when someone wrongs us, they are not only hurting us but their complaints/wrongs are against God.

Personally, I am finding this realization along with the assurance that I am God’s child and a joint heir with Christ makes it easier to let go of offenses suffered and allow God the space to work in my life and leave it to Him to also work in the life of the one who may have brought some hurt or pain into mine…

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and realize the prisoner was you.” -Lewis B Smedes

“Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.”                   -Corrie Ten Boom

They confronted me in the day of my distress, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out to a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me. (‭Psalms‬ ‭18‬:‭18-19‬ HCSB)

May we find the love of Christ in our lives and find the love, mercy, and  compassion to forgive others!  Also, to be forgiven as we have forgiven and be full of His joy. Grace and peace to you this day!